I’d heard a lot of great things about the Red Cow in Amersham Road. A bunch of people had suggested I go there – apparently it did great food and great beer. It gets a 4.5 star rating on Google reviews, and 5 on trip adviser (admittedly that’s only from 3 reviews). However, the Nags Head get’s gets 4.7 and 4.5, the Fox & Hounds gets 4.5 and 4.0, so The Red Cow must be great. Right?
When I got there, it did look promising from the outside – like a proper old country pub that urban sprawl has now meant it’s in the middle of town. The car park was mostly full, which was a good sign. It was early Sunday evening, and I had walked past several other completely full pubs on the way there, so I was honestly wondering if I’d be able to find a seat in the amazing Red Cow. Walking through the door though, there was no-one to be seen, and I wondered if they had closed for the afternoon. Younger readers may not remember, but until 1995, pubs had to shut at 3pm on a Sunday, and not open again until 7. It was truly a dismal time. Not that you necessarily wanted to spend all Sunday afternoon in the pub, but come 6:30 it certainly felt like you were being unfairly deprived of the opportunity had you wanted to. Anyway, I wondered if this pub still stuck to those hours, and I was about to be ejected. Fortunately I heard one person hidden behind a pillar chatting to the barman, so I decided to try to buy a drink.
First problem was what to drink of course. I saw the usual lager taps (Stella, Bud, Bud Light, Hop House 13 and Magners Cider with Blackcurrant), but I couldn’t see the bitter pumps. There was a big inconvenient pillar in the middle of the bar, so I did a little dance round it looking for some decent beer. The barman of course looked at me like I was mad, so I gave up dancing and asked him what bitter they had. Bottles of Doom Bar, Bottles of Black Sheep, and Bottles of London Pride in the fridge. £4 each. Not bad beer, but when I come to a pub, I expect more than a bottle that I can literally buy in the Tesco petrol station for £1.50. In fact, your average Tesco petrol station has a significantly better beer selection than this.
I sat down by the electric fake fire, on a sofa that was meant to be a long wide sofa, but which had been dismantled and laid out in an L-shape (i.e. random fall off the edge bits in the corner). I can only assume it was a hand-me-down from somewhere else, but it was conveniently located next to a large TV showing the Toulouse vs Strasbourg game on BT sports. Shockingly no-one seemed to care about that game. The pub was full of TVs in fact, and I can imagine that if there’s a big match on, the place is heaving. Perhaps it was the lack of excitement of a minor European game that kept people away. Also next to me was a fruit machine – and in fact there were quite a few of them in the pub. If you want to come somewhere to feed a minor gambling habit, this is the place.
The atmosphere did pick up a bit – two people came in to play pool, thus doubling the number of people in the pub. The juke box kept playing half a song every 10 minutes too. It seems programmed to play not the worst songs, but not the best songs either – in an attempt to get you to put some money in. Sometimes you have to admire the skill of people who make things like this – the days spent researching whether it’s more likely to get people to spend money if it plays 1 minute 30 of Rebel Rebel, or 2 minutes of My Girl. Of course it’ll all be done by AI soon, with your 7th favourite Eminem track following you from pub to pub in an effort to get you to put money in to get it to play a better song. But then even after you’ve paid it to play that, it’ll keep asking you “you listened to The Real Slim Shady. Would you like to play The Real Slim Shady again?”.
The pub also has a heavy Nepalese theme – or at least I assume that is what the theme is. It looked like Chinese dragons hanging up, lucky cats all over the place, and Chinese lanterns on the Christmas tree. The reason I say a Nepalese theme rather than Chinese though is because of the menu, which in addition to fish & chips and burger & chips, had Nepalese momo, Nepalese curry (with rice or chips), and Nepalese Chow Mein. I didn’t try it, but given the potential for good Nepalese food in random pubs (Namaste Lounge in the Hook & Tackle), I need to go back to try it some time.
The rest of the pub was a bunch of booths, and tables laid out like a social club – in rows ready for a good game of bingo or dominoes. The bar area had lino on the floor. It’s hard to tell if the carpet round the bar got too spilled on and was replaced with lino, or the whole pub used to be lino and only half of it got upgraded – either way it’s not great. In general the pub could do with a serious refurbishment, and some decent beer. The building has potential to be a really nice pub, but it’s not there yet.
|Beer Quality||It’s bottles from a fridge, so the same quality as you can get at home.|
|Beer Selection||Disappointing. Lager only on tap. Very small selection of bitter in bottles.|
|Drink vs Food||There’s food. I didn’t see anyone order it. But then there weren’t enough people for that to happen.|
|Music||Juke box interjecting periodically to try to get your attention|
|Price||£4 for a bottle|